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Thursday, March 17, 2005

The International Failure to Confront Khartoum: 

Consequences going forward for southern Sudan and Darfur

Eric Reeves
March 17, 2005

"The United Nations has withdrawn all international staff in part of
western Sudan to the state capital after Arab militias said they would
target foreigners and UN convoys in the area, the top UN envoy in Sudan
said on Wednesday. 'The Janjaweed militia have said that they will now
target all foreigners and all UN humanitarian convoys, so we have
withdrawn all people to El-Geneina [capital of West Darfur],' [the UN's
Jan Pronk] said. The militias gave the warning to the drivers of seized
UN trucks, he said." (Reuters, March 16, 2005)

The Janjaweed are not an independent force issuing this threat: they
are the military proxy of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum.
The "targeting of all foreigners and all UN humanitarian convoys" must
be heard as a threat ordered or sanctioned by Khartoum. The facts are
unambiguous: the Janjaweed militia have since spring 2003 militarily
coordinated with the regime's regular ground and air forces; Khartoum
has supplied and heavily armed the Janjaweed since first recruiting this
brutal militia as a counter-insurgency force; and the regime has for
almost two years paid, rewarded, and directed this savage genocidal
weapon of destruction.

The direct, ongoing relationship between Khartoum's regular military
and intelligence forces and the Janjaweed has been established beyond
any reasonable doubt by human rights groups (particularly Human Rights
Watch), the UN Commission of Inquiry, the African Union monitoring force
in Darfur, and by virtue of variously obtained internal regime
documents. The full extent of the present Janjaweed threat to
humanitarian workers in West Darfur is unclear but deeply ominous; the
origin of this threat in Khartoum is unmistakable.

We must see this Janjaweed threat against humanitarian personnel in
West Darfur both as a means of curtailing the international witnessing
of Khartoum's accelerating military efforts in the area (see below), as
well as an extension of Khartoum's resumed campaign to obstruct relief
efforts, a development highlighted by Kofi Annan in his February 2005
briefing of the UN Security Council:

"December and January saw increasing harassment of international
nongovernmental organizations by [Khartoum's] local authorities [in
Darfur], particularly in South Darfur. In a worrying sign that earlier
progress is being rolled back, systematic arrest, false and hostile
accusations through the national media outlets, and outright attacks
were combined with renewed restrictions on travel permits and visa
applications. Almost all NGOs operating South Darfur faced some form of
intimidation that delayed and restricted their operations." (February 4,
2005 Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council
resolution 1556, Paragraph 21)

This obstructionism marks resumption of a strategy that was evident as
long ago as December 2003, when UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian
Affairs Tom Vraalsen reported Khartoum's "systematic" denial of
humanitarian access to non-Arab or African tribal populations in Darfur.
Even more insistently, in recent testimony before the House of Commons
(UK), Mukesh Kapila describes what he witnessed as UN Resident and
Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan prior to being forced from his
position by Khartoum in March 2004 (the regime was outraged at Kapila's
frank assessment of what he testifies was clearly then in Darfur a "form
of genocide"):

"[Kapila:] I would say that 75-80% of the problem we had on the
humanitarian side [in responding to Darfur] was certainly due to the
systematic obstruction by the Sudanese government of humanitarian
access." (Q 185 from Corrected Transcript of Oral Evidence; to be
published as HC 67-v; taken before the International Development
Committee, House of Commons, February 22, 2005)

It is almost impossible to conceive a more brazen defiance of the
international community than Khartoum's renewed, calculated assault on
humanitarian efforts in the most distressed region in the world today.
The direct human consequences, if this present act of genocidal
destruction is not reversed, will be many tens of thousands of lives
lost. In a statement issued in mid-December 2004, UN Under-Secretary
for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland declared that mortality in Darfur
could reach to 100,000 deaths per month if insecurity forced the
withdrawal of humanitarian assistance (Financial Times, December 15,
2004). What we are witnessing in West Darfur is the first step in that
forced withdrawal.

For West Darfur is the most precariously situated of the three states
that make up Darfur Province, and the geographic region where the UN's
World Food Program must work hardest to pre-position food before the
advent of the rainy season in late spring/early summer. Every day of
delay in this effort will add more casualties to an already unforgivably
large number (the most recent Darfur mortality assessment by this
writer, based on a survey of all extant data, argues for a figure of
380,000 dead since the outbreak of large-scale conflict in February
2003; see
http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=44&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0).


THE ESSENTIAL TRUTH ABOUT THE KHARTOUM REGIME

It is long since time that international community accepted fully the
most important truth about Sudan:

Peace will neither come to Darfur nor survive in southern Sudan without
a fundamental shift in world attitudes towards the National Islamic
Front regime in Khartoum, even when it is nominally succeeded in July
2005 by a "government of national unity" as a result of the January 9,
2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Nairobi. For years the
international community has behaved---despite all evidence to the
contrary--as though this military junta is capable of fundamental
reform, that it can be "moderated" in significant ways, and that it can
be weaned of it recourse to genocidal domestic security policies.

In fact, the only shifts within the regime have been calculations about
which of its policies must be accommodated to international pressures
that wax and wane. The very same brutal men who came to power by
military coup in June 1989 continue to rule the country, with the
complex exception of Hassan al-Turabi. The senior members of the NIF
now under sealed indictment for massive "crimes against humanity" (per
the UN Commission of Inquiry in Darfur) were all part of the regime that
came to power in large measure to abort the peace process that was
reaching towards culmination during the government of Sadiq el-Mahdi
(1986-89).

[Africa Confidential (February 18, 2005, Volume 46, No. 4) has
published an extensive list of members of the National Islamic Front who
have been implicated in "crimes against humanity," and who have as a
consequence increasingly little interest in accommodating international
concerns about justice and "accountability." Included is First
Vice-President Ali Osman Tahja, with primary responsibility for
Khartoum's Darfur policy.]

RESUMED WAR IN SOUTHERN SUDAN?

The process that produced the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the
National Islamic Front (NIF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
(SPLM) must be seen for what it is: a process that is still very much
underway, and extremely vulnerable. For Khartoum counts on the
remarkable, and unprecedented, international pressure that sustained
this process diminishing under the costly burdens of ongoing commitment
to protecting the peace, both financially and militarily (in the form of
a UN peace-support operation). There is already considerable evidence
that Khartoum's calculation is all too accurate.

Moreover, since the regime acceded to the agreement of January 9 so
clearly under duress, so obviously needing to offer the international
community something while it pursued a genocidal counter-insurgency
policy in Darfur, it is difficult to see this context of "agreement" as
auguring any but an ominous future. When the Darfur matter is resolved,
Khartoum will be in a position to resume war in southern Sudan, the Nuba
Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile if it wishes.

Certainly the massive human destruction and displacement already
achieved in Darfur suggest that the genocide is so far along as to be
unstoppable before there has been a fundamental shift in the region's
demographics, as well as its economic and political power arrangements.
Khartoum's counter-insurgency operation has achieved ghastly success:
the rebel groups have fractured politically and militarily, and
agricultural production among the non-Arab or African populations from
which the insurgents have recruited has collapsed.

Why would the regime choose to resume war with the south? Why would
the historic opportunity of peace be foregone? Because there is great
oil wealth in the south that the NIF still believes it can control in
its entirety (rather than share evenly with the people of southern
Sudan); because the regime remains committed to an Islamizing and
Arabizing agenda; and because it calculates that the international
consequences of resuming war, and reasserting full political control in
Khartoum, will be manageable. It is no secret that a number of powerful
voices within the regime have felt that in accommodating international
pressure through the Naivasha peace process, too much was given away to
the south. These voices, of a more brutally calculating survivalism,
may very well prevail when Darfur is extinguished or becomes merely a
chronic humanitarian warehousing operation.

And how can we gainsay such vicious calculation? If the world
continues to conduct business as usual with this regime, if commercial
and capital investment continues to come from European and Asian
countries even at the height of the 21st century's first great episode
of genocidal destruction, if the World Bank blandly declares it "expects
to normalize relations with heavily indebted Sudan within a year"
(Reuters, March 9, 2005), why should the regime believe that things will
be any different after a carefully contrived breakdown of the peace
agreement with southern Sudan? Certainly there will be ample
opportunities for such contrivance; the regime-allied militias of Upper
Nile Province are only the most conspicuous means available. For this
reason alone the international community should be registering a great
deal more concern about recent militia activities in the oil regions of
Eastern Upper Nile, particularly the Akobo and Nasir areas (see below).

At the same time, Khartoum is more than willing to use the peace
agreement of January 9 as a means of deflecting or warning off greater
international pressure over Darfur, declaring in effect that the
north/south peace agreement is in danger if the world community decides
to act more aggressively on Darfur. We have what is only the most
recent installment in this pattern of behavior in comments by Khartoum's
Justice Minister Ali Yassin (one of those who is under sealed indictment
for "crimes against humanity").

Yassin was speaking on the convening of the UN Commission on Human
Rights (the NIF regime holds a seat on this now disgraced international
body), and his reference to Sudan's impending "government of national
unity" was a clear invocation of the power-sharing agreement that was a
central part of the January 9 Comprehensive Peace Agreement:

"'Unmeasured, uneven and unbalanced pressure and signals have
exacerbated the already volatile situation in Darfur,' Sudan's Justice
Minister Ali Yassin said in a speech to the 53-strong committee [of the
UN Commission on Human Rights] which began its 61st annual session here
on Monday. 'Any undue pressure on the government of national unity will
retard its ability to implement the comprehensive peace agreement,' he
said." (Agence France-Presse [Geneva], March 14, 2005)

This strategy of using as a threat the possible collapse of the
completed north/south peace agreement is entirely continuous with the
strategy the regime deployed for months in holding out the prospect of
an "impending" agreement. In recent, quite remarkable testimony before
members of the UK Parliament, former UN Resident and Humanitarian
Coordinator for Sudan Mukesh Kapila was asked pointedly by the Chair of
the International Development Committee (Tony Baldry):

"[Baldry:] Did you have any suggestion from the UK Government that you
should ease up your comments and your criticisms on Darfur until the
Naivasha agreement was concluded?"

"[Mukesh Kapila:] Yes."
(Q 201 from Corrected transcript of Oral Evidence; to be published as
HC 67-v; taken before the International Development Committee, House of
Commons, February 22, 2005)

In other words, for well over a year, Khartoum used the southern peace
process as a means of muting international criticism---especially by the
UK, the US, and Norway---of genocide in Darfur. Now the regime's
diplomatic manipulation has reversed itself: as criticism over Darfur
mounts, Khartoum is resorting to clear threats to undermine the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The assumption is that the international
community will again find expediency the easiest way to respond to
Sudan's ongoing agony, and make a series of trade-offs and
concessions that will cumulatively compromise the effectiveness of any
response to Darfur or to the urgent transitional needs of southern
Sudan. This attitude on the part of the international community is
perfectly reflected in comments attributed to a "senior US official,"
likely Charles Snyder, the chief State Department official working on
Sudan:

"A senior US official argued that the main US constraint [in
considering humanitarian intervention in Darfur] was fearful that too
much pressure over Darfur would destroy the US-mediated agreement signed
in January that ended Sudan's separate north-south conflict, Africa's
longest-running civil war, which cost some 2 million lives." (Financial
Times, March 14, 2005)

In other words, despite the finding by the US State Department that
genocide is occurring in Darfur---a finding nominally echoed by the
White House---and despite hundreds of thousands of casualties to date,
and with many more clearly in prospect, the US is worried about
excessive pressure on the regime orchestrating this genocide.

The National Islamic Front is easily able to sniff out such expedient
instincts and fashion responses accordingly. This is moral cowardice on
the part of the US, which in its painful transparency constitutes very
poor policy.

SOUTHERN SUDAN AND THE COSTS OF EXPEDIENCY

There are a number of deeply worrying signs and trends in southern
Sudan. Some can be easily identified; others require closer examination
of geography, recent history, the terms of the peace agreement, and the
particular needs of a land ravaged by 21 years of brutally destructive
civil war and scorched-earth clearances, particularly in the oil regions
of Upper Nile Province.

The lack of financial commitment to emergency transitional aid is one
obvious measure of the fragility of the peace process. Speaking of the
agreement, UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland
declared:

"'In the south of Sudan, the world has really achieved something
fantastic in putting an end to the bloodiest war in this region. But it
is not willing to foot the bill of building the peace and providing for
the return of refugees,' [Egeland] said. 'My (UN) people have built up
very dramatically in anticipation that the money will be coming because
they simply cannot believe that the donor community will not assist
them.'"

"[Egeland] told the New York Times in an interview that only 25 million
dollars of the total 500 million dollars pledged by donors last October
had been received by his office. The funds are destined to economic
development and build a democratic system to support the peace accord."
(Deutsche Presse Agentur, March 7, 2005)

Only 5% of the internationally pledged emergency assistance has been
received, this as southern Sudan has entered into what will be the most
precarious moment of a nascent peace. Even the food needs of southern
Sudan have not been funded: senior spokesman for the World Food Program
Peter Smerdon recently noted:

"The reality is that as of this week the 2005 [UN World Food Program]
operation for south and east Sudan, totaling [US] $301, is less than 10%
funded." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 9, 2005)

The failure to commit to substantial resources for emergency
transitional needs in southern Sudan ensures that the means for
accommodating the many hundreds of thousands of returning Internally
Displaced Persons and refugees will not be in place in a timely fashion.
The threats to stability created by such a large influx of bereft
civilians, in regions that are destitute and bearing the terrible scars
of war, are far too many.

At the same time, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has
proposed an exorbitantly expensive and very poorly conceived
peace-support operation for southern Sudan---one that will cost over $1
billion per year and yet still fails to address in meaningful fashion
the greatest military threat to the negotiated peace, viz. the potent
Khartoum-allied militias, especially in Eastern Upper Nile (EUN). The
Akobo and Nasir regions of EUN have seen heavy recent fighting between
these militias and forces of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Akobo
has been captured and re-captured, and present insecurity ("red no-go")
prevents all humanitarian relief operations in the area (e.g., Akobo,
Nasir, Wandeng, Mandeng, Wanding, Kier, Thot liet).

Citing "humanitarian sources," the UN's Integrated Regional Information
Networks [IRIN] gives us an unusually good account of these
under-reported developments:

"Recent movements of armed militias around the eastern Sudanese town of
Akobo in Jonglei State have led to increased tension in the area,
humanitarian sources told IRIN. 'Some 700 militia were heading to Akobo
from Nasir [near the Ethiopian border], during the first week of March,'
one source said on Wednesday. 'The troops came very close, up to an
hour's walking distance, and camped there for a day or so.'"

"On 17 [2005] February, fighting broke out when armed militias attacked
Akobo. They were reportedly under the command of Taban Juoc, who was
recently promoted to the rank of Brigadier by the Sudanese government.
'The unprovoked attacks on SPLM/A positions in the town of Akobo by
renegade Commander Taban Juoc are a direct violation of the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement,' Samson Kwaje, spokesman for the SPLM/A
said in a 4 March [2005] statement." [ ]

"The SPLM/A retook Akobo on 20 [2005] February and its Commander Dou
Yaak said the armed group that briefly occupied Akobo had killed three
SPLM/A soldiers. He also said the armed men had destroyed part of the
hospital and the church, and burnt down approximately 2,000 tukuls
(grass huts)." (IRIN [Nairobi], March 11, 2005)

What is the nature of the UN peace-support operation that must confront
such situations as the most likely threat to peace in southern Sudan?
How well is this force prepared to avert military confrontation in Upper
Nile? or the three contested areas of Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and
Southern Blue Nile? Very poorly indeed, even as its budget is absurdly
bloated.

We should first recall that the Protocol on "implementation modalities"
that became part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of January
9, 2005 was signed on December 31, 2004 by the Khartoum regime and the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) ("Agreement on
Permanent Ceasefire and Security Arrangements Implementation
Modalities"). This key protocol is the only language concerning a UN
peacekeeping operation to which the SPLM/A has committed itself and on
which it has been consulted. The Protocol stipulates:

"The Parties [Government of Sudan and SPLM/A] agree to request the UN
to constitute a lean, effective, sustainable, and affordable UN Peace
Support Mission to monitor and verify this Agreement and to support the
implementation of the CPA as provided for under Chapter VI of the UN
Charter;" (Section 15.1)

There is no evidence that the proposed UN peace support operation for
southern Sudan (UNMISUD) will be either "lean" or "affordable" for the
purposes that should guide deployment. It is thus difficult to see how
such an operation can be "sustainable." The force proposed in the
original US-drafted Security Council resolution of February 2005 ("up to
10,000 uniformed personnel, plus 715 civilian police, and an appropriate
civilian component") could hardly be more vaguely described. Moreover,
though articulated under the auspices of Chapter VII of the UN Charter,
the proposed deployment of this force is not defined in terms that are
specific to the particular military situation in southern Sudan.

There is no indication of how UNMISUD would confront military
hostilities initiated by Khartoum-controlled militia forces, even as
present evidence makes clear that this is distinctly the most likely
source of cease-fire violations and the greatest single threat to the
peace agreement. The US proposal speaks of a mandate to "monitor and
verify the Ceasefire Agreement, and support implementation of the CPA,"
and "to observe and monitor the movement of armed groups," and to
"investigate violations of the ceasefire agreement" Section 2,
(a)(b)(c), but not how it would respond to violations that threaten the
existence or viability of the ceasefire.

The mandate includes "assisting in the establishment of the
disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program as called for in
the CPA and its implementation through voluntary disarmament, and
weapons collections and destruction." But without much more specific
rules of engagement, and a much clearer role in the disarmament of the
militias, the bulk of this vast UNMISUD force, well in excess of 10,000,
will have no role other than to protect approximately 750 actual
monitors on the ground.

Indeed, as described by Jan Pronk in a briefing of the UN Security
Council, UNMISUD will have 750 military observers, a 5,000-strong
"enabling force," and a "protection component" of 4,000 (UN Press
Release [New York], February 7, 2005). Observation and monitoring are
certainly of fundamental importance, and must without question be
provided, and protected. But a force well in excess of 10,000, costing
over $1 billion per year, without a meaningful mandate other than
observation, is the very opposite of "lean" and "sustainable,"
especially in the context of the overwhelming transitional needs of
civilian southern Sudan.

The present international commitment to southern Sudan reflects a poor
allocation of resources, a failure to recognize the real threats to the
tenuous peace, and an unwillingness to confront the realities in
Khartoum that remain so insistently evident. In short, the similarities
to the international response in Darfur are many and deeply troubling.

PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN DARFUR RECEDE FURTHER

For in Darfur, we see a version of the same unwillingness to confront
Khartoum: instead of the humanitarian intervention that has been clearly
dictated for over a year, the international response has been to provide
only what humanitarian assistance Khartoum permits. The woefully
inadequate African Union monitoring force of 2,000 under-equipped
personnel constitutes the entire international response to the vast and
urgent security needs of a region the size of France. Whether we look to
the UN, the European Union, the US, or the AU itself, there has been
such a consistent lack of willingness to confront Khartoum over its
intransigent pursuit of genocidal counter-insurgency policies in Darfur
that we can hardly be surprised by the regime's willingness to threaten
humanitarian operations by means of its Janjaweed militia proxy.

Moreover, it is not accidental that the violent threat to humanitarian
workers has been so bluntly issued in West Darfur, which has been
relatively more quiet in recent months. For increasingly, this is the
region within Darfur where fighting is concentrated. Khartoum has seen
the AU deploy its highly limited resources in North and South Darfur,
and as a consequence has simply shifted the military "front," thereby
eluding a great deal of whatever scrutiny the thinly deployed AU might
provide.

Reuters recently reports (dispatches of March 14 and 16, 2005) on
fighting between Khartoum's forces and the National Movement for Reform
and Development (a third Darfuri rebel movement) in the Jabel Moun area
of West Darfur. The Darfur Relief and Documentation Center (Geneva) has
also recently reported in detail on intense fighting in the same area,
and gives a much fuller sense of the impact of fighting on humanitarian
operations:

"Lawlessness, banditry activities, violence and the threat of violence
are rampant in the region with serious implications on the situation of
food security in many affected areas especially in the Jabal Marra
massive and Jabal Moun in West Darfur. Banditry activities and growing
security risks are leading to suspension of relief operations and
delivery of food and other lifesaving material to thousands of
internally displaced persons and vulnerable host communities. Fighting
and violence are also causing more displacement and casualties among the
civilian populations. DRDC received reports of fighting and intensive
unrest in the Nertiti, Wadi Azoum, Habilla and Seleia areas (West
Darfur) since the beginning of March 2005. As a direct result the UN
declared these areas as No-Go Zones."

"Threat of violence by militiamen forced UN agencies in West Darfur to
withdraw their personnel from the countryside into El-Geneina town since
10th March 2005. Other humanitarian organisations followed the UN and
are withdrawing their workers into the town from the countryside."

"DRDC is concerned that most of the attacks and banditry activities
were carried out in areas controlled by the government of Sudan, and in
some cases the army and police were visibly present. The indiscriminate
targeting of humanitarian organisations and relief workers appears to be
a calculated attempt to cause starvation among the internally displaced
populations." (Darfur Relief and Documentation Center, Geneva, March 14,
2005)

But the UN Security Council remains paralyzed, unable to reach
consensus on even a mildly threatening sanctions regime. This is so
despite the urgent call for humanitarian intervention yesterday (March
16, 2005) from fifteen distinguished UN human rights experts:

"We are gravely concerned about the ongoing violations of human rights
and humanitarian law in the Darfur region of Sudan [ ] and we call upon
the international community to take effective measures to end the
violations on a basis of utmost urgency. [ ] Despite efforts by the
international community to commit troops and assistance to the region,
the violence continues virtually unabated in a context of wholesale
impunity, and the threat of famine is looming."

"The violations in Darfur have been staggering in scale and harrowing
in nature. [ ] If the vow that the international community will 'Never
Again' stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being perpetrated
is to have any meaning, now is the time for decisive action."

"A robust international solution is urgently needed, as the
Secretary-General affirmed when he called upon the Security Council, on
16 February 2005, 'to act urgently to stop further death and suffering
in Darfur, and to do justice for those whom we are already too late to
save.'" (UN Human Rights Experts Call for Urgent, Effective Action on
Darfur," UN Information Service [Geneva], March 16, 2005)

But instead of humanitarian intervention, with all necessary military
support, "'the world is only putting an expensive humanitarian plaster
on the open wound in Darfur.'" [Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary for
Humanitarian Affairs] (Reuters, March 7, 2005)

This substitution of humanitarian relief for humanitarian intervention
ultimately reflects an unwillingness to address the Darfur crisis
honestly, to confront Khartoum directly over its genocidal ambitions.
It reflects as well an international inability to speak honestly about
the massive shortcomings of the African Union as a source of civilian
protection. This in turn reflects a dishonest accommodation of the
views of such African leaders as Nigerian President and AU Chair
Obasanjo, Libyan President Ghaddafi, and Egyptian President
Mubarak---views that would substitute the slogan "African solutions for
African problems" for a meaningful response to genocide in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen. The UN World
Food Program's disingenuous claim of a 33% increase in food deliveries
in February 2005 (over January 2005) masks a greater truth: the average
monthly food delivery for January and February 2005 (1.4 million
recipients) is actually 100,000 fewer than the December 2004 total of
1.5 million recipients. Moreover, there is little chance for the
significant increases that are necessary to help the 2.4 million people
described by the UN as "conflict-affected" (UN Darfur Humanitarian
Profile No. 10, January 1, 2005---the most recently available, even as
this number has surely increased significantly in the past two and a
half months). As the World Food Program (WFP) acknowledged recently:

"WFP is reaching the limits of its Cooperating Partners' capacity on
the ground in the three [Darfur] States, an issue that requires
attention in the course of this month." (WFP Situation Report on Darfur,
March 2-8, 2005)

In other words, the capacity of those humanitarian organizations that
enable the WFP to reach intended beneficiaries has reached its
limits---at a level more than 1 million human beings below what is
currently required. This statistical/logistical reality is clear if we
consider the food-distressed populations in rural areas that are
presently inaccessible and not likely to reach camps, either for
security reasons or because they are waiting until all coping mechanisms
and food-stocks are exhausted. A recent report from the US Agency for
International Development notes:

"Some nongovernmental organizations have voiced concerns that potential
[food] beneficiaries may not seek food assistance until their coping
mechanisms are exhausted and no food-stocks remain. Relief agencies
report that registrations are increasing in supplementary and
therapeutic feeding centers, confirming the fact that additional
communities are beginning to lack sufficient food." (US Agency for
International Development, "Darfur Fact Sheet," March 4, 2005)

The chief AU envoy for Darfur, Baba Gana Kingibe, reports just today on
an even more ominous development: "'There was a two-month food security
gap before. Our estimates now are giving us a four-month food security
gap,' [Kingibe] said" (Reuters, March 17, 2005).

Additionally, WFP is reporting a serious current break in the food
pipeline for "pulses" (leguminous food) essential for any healthy human
diet. Other non-cereal shortcomings are also in evidence. The current
curtailment of humanitarian operations in West Darfur also poses an
extremely serious risk to belated efforts by WFP to pre-position food in
West Darfur prior to the rainy season (which affects West Darfur most
consequentially).

This is the context in which to assess Khartoum's use of the Janjaweed
to threaten and obstruct humanitarian relief efforts in West Darfur.
There is precious little evidence that sufficient honesty will obtain in
that assessment.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
ereeves@smith.edu
www.sudanreeves.org

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